When writing or revising any document, whether its a novel, an article, marketing copy, website copy, etc., you need to keep a lookout for ‘filler’ words.
Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you.” -KushandWizdom
Your content needs precision and persuasive words that serve a purpose. With every word, you need to move the plot forward. Especially with the shortening attention spans of people, writers no longer have the luxury of filler words.
By removing unnecessary words, you will speed up your dialogue, your action, and your work will feel more professional.
We are not providing a full list of these ‘redundant’ words, but rather a place to get you started thinking about your word choices.
I know what you are thinking:
“Am I supposed always to avoid these words? What if I need to use them sometimes?”
Sometimes it is okay. Use balance and common sense.
Words You Need To Use With Caution
A common modifier. Grammarly, if you use it, should have mentioned this to you hundreds of times. Instead of ‘really,’ aim to identify and use stronger verbs and adjectives.
“She ate her food really fast, and then she felt sick.”
“She gobbled her food, and then she felt sick.”
Another modifier that we use more than it is necessary.
“John was very sad.”
“John was heartbroken.”
My general rule is if a sentence makes sense after removing the word “that” then delete it.
“This is the most amazing food that I ever tasted.”
“This is the most amazing food I ever tasted.”
Unfortunately, this particular word carries an unprofessional tone. We tend to use the word ‘then’ when we are creating a sequence of events. Instead of ‘then,’ try using ‘and.’
“I fell down the stairs; then, I crawled to the door to see who was bagging with so much force.”
“I fell down the stairs, and I crawled to the door. I needed to see who was bagging with so much force”.
This one can be harder to remove, especially from dialogues. However, for the most part, you do not need it.
“Just go, I never want to see you again.”
‘Go! I never want to see you again”.
Do you notice how our dialogue is more confident in the second example?
Rather & Quite
A book is not rather boring.
It is boring.
A relationship is not quite chaotic.
It is chaotic.
There is no reason to diminish the meaning of our sentences by adding ‘rather’ and ‘quite’ left and right.
Totally & Completely
Both of these words do not add any new information to whatever you are trying to convey.
“The house was completely destroyed” and “The woman was totally surprised.”
“The house was destroyed” and “The woman was surprised.”
Probably & Definitely & Actually & Basically
Once more, these commonly used words will not add any impact to your point. Let’s revisit a basic writing rule that clearly states, if a sentence makes sense without it, then delete it.
Absolutely & Literally
Unless ‘absolutely’ is a response to a question, where the responder is 100% certain of their answer, it usually does not add anything to your content. The same goes for ‘literally.’
Begin & Start
Unless these two are a command, they tend to be unnecessary. Use your common sense and see if they add any substance to your content; if not, delete.
Down & Up
The same rule applies here as above. Unless they are a command, you might not need them.
“I stood up” or “I sat down.”
“I stood” or “I sat”
Now let’s examine dialogue techniques.
Said & Asked
These two guys, along with some other ones such as ‘replied’ and ‘added,’ tend to slow the pacing. When you first introduce dialogue in your content, you might need to use them a couple of times to clarify who is saying what.
However, once the dialogue is well on its way, there is no need to repeat these words.
If you feel unforgettable not using them, you can make them more interesting by surrounding them with action!
“I do not want to eat this; can I hide it somewhere?” said Mark.
“Sure, place it in your man bag,” Mary said. “That is your bag, isn’t it?”
Ponder & Realized & Feel
These particular set, along with similar words such as ‘realized,’ ‘thought,’ and ‘understood,’ are meant to be extracted intellectually by the reader. By spelling our every emotion and every thought your protagonist has, you prevent your reader from exercising their introspection.
“I wonder whether Mary was her daughter.”
“Was Mary her daughter?”
Do you find yourself using these words frequently?
We hope we demonstrated some alternatives to help you evolve as a writer.
Are there more words we should be adding on this list?